I saw this letter in today's Dear Abby column and was incensed by the response:
Cancer patient is stunned by woman's tasteless joke
I have been battling breast cancer and have been blessed to have a lot of support from family, friends and some awesome medical providers. My husband’s best friend and his wife socialize with us quite often, and the friendship is important to him. I recently celebrated a birthday and these friends had us over for a belated birthday dinner. They bought me beautiful flowers and a gift. The card attached made a joke about my “aging breasts,” which she found quite funny.
Abby, I had a mastectomy, which she knew about! To make matters worse, my hair has just started to grow back from the chemo, so I decided to have some highlights put in, and she told me she didn’t like my new hair.
I am hurt and dumbfounded by her insensitive behavior. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time she has said things like this. How do I tell her I’m offended by her rudeness without compromising my husband’s friendship with them?
Dear Harried Friend:
You nailed it. The woman is insensitive — but you said she has also made tasteless comments in the past.
For the sake of the friendship between your husbands, tune her out and spend less time with her one-on-one. It’s OK to tell her that her joke about your “aging breasts” hurt your feelings in light of your mastectomy, and that as your hair is growing back you thought you’d like to try something “different.” However, if you use the word “offended” she’ll probably become defensive, so avoid that word.
A final thought: Most people are terrified of cancer. People sometimes try to make jokes about things that make them uncomfortable in an effort to diffuse those feelings. This may be the reason the woman tried to joke about it, so don’t let it cause you to carry a grudge.
I take issue with Abby's response. My advice: "Tell the bitch off"! I found cancer to be very "freeing" and a good time to "cut loose" all of the insensitive jerks in my life. If your husband is really supportive, he won't mind and might even be relieved to do so. You don't need the aggravation. Save your energy to battle the cancer-your life is far more important than a "pseudo friendship". I agree that most people are terrified of cancer but it doesn't excuse their rudeness. As the old adage goes, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all". A so called friend/supporter should always take their cues from the survivor. If that is your type of humor, fine, if not, don't joke. A cancer battle is serious stuff. Some use humor as a tool, where others need a stiff dose of love & support at all times. Ditch the crappy friendship!